The Providence French Film Festival kicked off its 22nd year of bringing Francophone cinema to Providence Feb. 28. The festival hopes to “showcase a richness of voices, perspectives and insights from established filmmakers and emerging directors of Francophone cinema from all parts of the world,” according to the event’s press release.
The six-day festival offers a wide range of content in various subject matters and forms, featuring comedies, dramas, documentaries, animations and children’s shorts from French-speaking regions. “We tried to make sure we have content that hits different demographics,” said Regina Longo, media archivist and lecturer in the Department of Modern Culture and Media department. Longo serves as the artistic director of this year’s festival and stressed the importance of showing “films that focus on women, have strong, positive characters that are people of color, dealing with legacies of French colonialism … (and) challenging certain things that (dominate) public conversation right now.”
“How do you shift and tell the story from the point of view of the person who doesn’t always have the voice, who isn’t always in power? We want to have a different perspective,” Longo said.
The festival screened “Varda by Agnès,” narrated by renowned director Agnès Varda. In her posthumous documentary, Varda chronicles her career as an experimental filmmaker focused on social commentary and feminist issues. A stop-motion anthology about the colonization of Africa, “This Magnificent Cake!” dissects the legacies of colonialism in the Belgium-occupied Congo. “By the Grace of God,” winner of the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prix at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival, dramatizes the resurfaced pedophilia scandals of the French Diocese of Lyon. “Zombi Child” is a drama that explores a young Afro-Haitian woman’s relationship with her family’s past practices of Voodoo culture as she navigates her life as a new student at an elite French boarding school.
The University’s Department of French Studies has long integrated the festival into its curriculum, connecting students studying the French language to the larger Francophone culture. “The Festival is important for our curriculum because it allows our students to watch films they would not see otherwise, and it exposes them to recently released films from other parts of the world, thereby enhancing their knowledge and understanding of France and the French-speaking world,” Stéphanie Ravillon, senior lecturer in the French department, wrote in an email to The Herald.
Longo noted that “almost everything” being shown at the festival is a Rhode Island premiere. The limited release of these films in the Rhode Island area and the United States has prevented many audiences from viewing a wide array of Francophone film, but the festival hopes to combat this roadblock and expose the greater Providence area to French cinema.
“I just want people to get a chance to see as much as they can of different types of things,” Longo said. “Films for kids, films for young adults and teens, films for adults, with a mix of themes: some are political, some are comedy, family drama. Some are French commercial cinema.”
Longo expressed excitement to connect not only Brown students to Francophone cinema, but the greater Providence community — particularly students at Hope High School. The PFFF is providing free tickets for Hope students to attend a viewing of “The Fall of Sparta,” a Québécois coming-of-age film. “We’re opening that one up on Monday afternoon, so the kids can get there after school. We really hope to create a connection between Hope and Brown.”
At the first showing of “Varda by Agnès,” Madison Hough ’22 said the PFFF is “a really cool festival that kind of brings the greater Providence arts community to Brown and brings global film to campus and to Providence. I thought (“Varda by Agnès”) was really amazing … learning about Agnes Varda’s life story and creative ability. …It was really inspiring.”